Whew! Moxie was lucky enough to attend the opening night of the first installment of Lincoln Center's The Coast of Utopia trilogy, entitled Voyage. Being on standby for tickets encouraged lots of star-gazing, and Moxie thrilled at the sight of Martha Stewart, entourage-free, entering humbly through the downstairs door by the Mitzi Newhouse Theater. We're also pretty sure we saw Josh Hamilton (who appears only in one scene at the top of act two) wandering doe-eyed around the lobby during intermission. Unless he has an actual identical twin, he was in the lobby, looking a bit confused. Moxie also saw director Jack O'Brien being complimented up the wazoo... it went something like this:
Drooling theatergoer: Congratulations! You must be so happy.
O'Brien: I am!
Drooling theatergoer: You must be so proud!
O'Brien: I am!
Moxie thought the reviews were just a *little* over the top in their praise - it seems like Stoppard's play and O'Brien's staging have turned the whole theater community into drooling lapdogs. However, we must admit, the play is profoundly beautiful and intelligent, and O'Brien's direction makes it wholly approachable and free of the intellectual arrogance and self-congratulation that Moxie expected to see.
It strikes us that this is a play different than any other we can think of. Utopia spends about two thirds of the script discussing various philosophies of why we exist, what is reality, and what is that reality worth. These are discussed literally, between a couple people standing on the stage. It seems to us that most plays are a giant metaphor leading to a point of discussion about these philosophical questions, but to discuss them outright onstage is obvious and ill-fitting to the medium of theater, perhaps better suited for a docu-drama or essay. What's quietly mindblowing about the show is how effectively it wraps the audience into these philosphical debates, and makes us interested in what is essentially characters talking about something, rather than doing.
Of course, there's also plenty of character-based action, relationships to invest in, and all that meaty good stuff we go to theater to see. Moxie didn't love Billy Crudup in The Pillowman (though the show is one of our favorites), but he absolutely glows in this role, pouring all his frenetic energy into the awkwardness, social discomfort, and warm heartedness this character has in spades. Ethan Hawke's normally annoying qualities (bravado overdose, suspicious smell of arrogance lurking beneath the surface) are suited perfectly for the macho rock-star-esque Bakunin. Kelli Overbey and the other sisters are good, and Brien F. O'Byrne has just a dollop of a role in Voyage, whetting Moxie's appetite for the next two installments.
Voyage runs through March 10th at Lincoln Center Theater. Pictures by NY Times and TheaterMania.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Ellen Burstyn thinks acting in the U.S. has seen better times. She recently told Reuters, "Acting? I think it needs some help... TV has lowered the bar. With quicker schedules everything is rushed, so the quality gets lowered."
Right on! Moxie used to be a superfan of Grey's Anatomy, but can barely even endure an episode nowadays. It's so disheartening to watch fabulous actors like Sandra Oh, T.R. Knight, and Chandra Wilson hurried through scenes, doing the best they can with what is essentially soap-opera material. Their transformative abilities keep the show at the top of the ratings, but it's too bad we can't see them onstage. T.R. Knight wasn't even available for theater for much of last summer because of press for Grey's in Europe.
About the state of Broadway, Burstyn said, "I am appalled. (I saw) a couple of things that were billed as good, but they were shockingly bad. I can't recommend anything on Broadway." Moxie wonders what she saw that was "billed as good," something that got raves, but may well be getting a bit stif and rusty, like Jersey Boys? Or one of Broadway's current best offerings, like Grey Gardens? Moxie's looking for an example of a straight play performance that's quite good, but... ehrm... well aside from Julie White, not much happening in that arena right now, is there? Perhaps later in the season Burstyn can find something she likes, with offerings like The Coast of Utopia, The Year of Magical Thinking, Translations, and The Vertical Hour. There's got to be SOMETHING transcendent this year. Better yet, maybe Ellen Burstyn will come back to the stage sometime soon.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Michael Richards appeared tonight on Letterman, and apologized for his recent crazed rant during an appearance at a comedy club. The story goes, if you haven't already heard it, that Richards was performing his stand-up act when a group began heckling him, and he got upset and freaked, spewing some pretty god-awful racist slurs.
Moxie was at first skeptical of this public apology on Letterman, anticipating a formal, straight-from-the-publicist's-notepad apology, blaming alcohol, drugs, or the like. Instead, Richards was visibly shaken and upset, and remorseful of what transpired. His words seemed unplanned and sincere, and he explained that he basically lost control in the face of the hecklers, and at first tried to shock the audience into stopping the heckling, and then was overcome with anger that he lost control of.
Moxie particularly appreciated the way Richards explained how he felt about the people in the crowd contacting the press about the scuffle, and the media attention the event has received. Richards said that people were right contact the press, and it's right that it be in the public forum, because the black community should not stand for what happened. It's right that people come forward against this kind of thing, and not let it go by unnoticed. It is a big deal. His conviction in this belief in the face of such a public embarassment was... well not admirable, but good for him. Well said.
As horrifying and unacceptable as Richard's actions are, Moxie must admit, she feels she can relate on some level. Moxie, like most earthlings, has had her fair share of ill-conceived outbursts in public, including slamming the door of a well-known theatrical venue in the manager's face, while shouting a few obscenities (though not race-related!) for the whole crowd of onlookers to hear. Lots of people have these kinds of experiences, when they aren't too proud of themselves, and maybe don't even believe in the things they've just said. Most of us don't have an entire American public interested in examining these moments, thank goodness.
With this in mind, Moxie thinks it's a damn shame that Dr. McDouchebag, Isaiah Washington, didn't have the good sense and courage to come forward after his own recent display of homophobia, bigotry, and hatred. We're all humans, and we tend to say and do stupid, reprehensible things that we'd like to take back, if we could. It's too bad that Dr. McDouchebag couldn't swallow his ego and apologize from the heart, as Michael Richards has done. It doesn't make up for anything, and it doesn't make it right, but at least to Moxie, it means a lot.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Playwrights Horizons has been kind enough to offer a "Blog Discount" to Moxie's fabulous theater-going readers. If you read Moxie's review and are interested in seeing it, here's the info.
Order by December 5, and all seats are $45.00 (reg $65) for performances November 10 – December 17 with code FCAL. Additional performances Monday, November 20.
Thanksgiving Weekend Special! All seats $40.00 (reg $65) for performances Friday, Nov. 24 – Sunday, Nov. 26 with code FCAL. Limit 4 tickets per order. Subject to availability.
Order online at www.playwrightshorizons.org, or call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 (noon - 8 p.m. daily), or use code at the Ticket Central Box Office 416 West 42nd Street (noon – 8 p.m. daily).
Performances Tuesday – Friday 8pm, Saturday 2:30 & 8pm, Sunday 2:30 & 7:30pm
How has Moxie missed this? Filming is under way for The Golden Compass, the first of the His Dark Materials movies which are sure to amaze and inspire.
Moxie was lucky enough to see the National Theatre's two-play production of His Dark Materials in London, starring Anna Maxwell Martin and Dominic Cooper (The History Boys). The double-whammy two-part spectacular was one of the most fun, inspiring, heartbreaking, and beautiful productions Moxie has ever seen. Check out many long video clips of the show and other multi-media fun stuff at Stagework's incredible website.
For those who don't know Phillip Pullman's trilogy of books, here's IMDB's summary:
In a parallel Oxford, young Lyra Belacqua begins a dimension-crossing odyssey that builds from a merely atypical children's adventure into a complex (and frequently quite dark) philosophical epic.
The story is something of a children's story - sort of a darker, wiser, fiercely intelligent version of Harry Potter. It challenges organized religion, politics, sexuality as we know it, and many other concepts and beliefs we grown-ups begrudgingly accept.
So now they're making a movie of the story, with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard! Starring in the movie will be Nicole Kidman as the evil Marisa Coulter, Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, Eva Green (recent interview) as the ageless witch Serafina Pekkala, and Adam Godley (the original Michael from The National's production of The Pillowman) as the voice of Pantalaimon. Ian McShane will also voice the role of Iofur Raknison, the king of the polar bears.
Moxie is abuzz and atwitter with excitement for the film!
Monday, November 13, 2006
Moxie attended good ole' pay-what-you-can night at Playwrights Horizons, and enjoyed the first preview of Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky. Here's the Playwrights Horizons blurb:
It’s a freewheeling musical journey from Montana to Austin (with a side trip to Hollywood) when a burnt out former country & western star joins forces with a 20 year-old free-spirit with an electrifying voice. Their meeting and unlikely friendship, and the musical partnership that arises from it form a tale of sweet heartbreak, a parable about finding the strength, against all odds, to keep on keepin’ on.
Well, "freewheeling musical journey" makes it sound a bit too much like Dixie Chicks: The Musical. David Cale's quiet, heartfelt musical (is it a musical? really?) is more melancholy than boot-stompin', for the most part. It begins with Floyd, a country music performer (real country, nothing like what you'd see on the CMA's) having a breakdown, one which results in him living out of his clunker of a car and waiting to die of alcohol poisoning. The journey begins in that very grim place, and chronicles his slow climb out of desparation, with encouragement and companionship from a spunky and determined teenager.
David Cale has written and composed (with Jonathan Kreisberg) what might turn out to be a quiet masterpiece. The music is solid, and accurately portrays the real country-western music world, an admirable risk when a more musical theater style would have increased the show's marketability. The fact that he performs it with such gentleness and humility makes it an accomplishment that other musical and theatrical artists ought to celebrate. Not once does Cale dip into the well of arrogance as a performer or a writer. Instead, his character is painfully shy, shrugging and hiding behind huge glasses, opening up to Clea and the audience one hesitating, painful stitch at a time. His ultimate flourishing recovery is beautifully simple and based in reality, making the play soar beyond the realm of the expected troubled-man-makes-good story.
Mary Faber (Avenue Q's recent Kate Monster) at first smacks of musical-theater characterization, popping around the stage and playing Clea's perkiness to the hilt. This, combined with a few of the weaker songs, makes act one border on tedious, at points. However, as Clea's eyes are opened to life's complications and sadness, Faber becomes increasingly entrancing, channeling a young Sissy Spacek mixed with pre-Grey's-Anatomy-hatefulness Ellen Pompeo (speaking of which, check out Ellen Pompeo's episode of Punk'd... bitch is crazy, no lie). Faber's performance will surely deepen as previews continue, and Moxie thinks that by opening night, Floyd and Clea will be a force to reckon with.
As always, when Moxie reviews shows that are in previews, especially very early previews such as this, the show is still very much a work in progress. Please keep in mind that most shows change, shift, and oftentimes vastly improve over the course of previews, up through opening night, when most "real" reviews are written.
Floyd & Clea Under the Western Sky runs through Dec. 17th at Playwrights Horizons.
Friday, November 10, 2006
From today's Manhattan Users Guide:
Years ago, when a musical was in trouble, a ‘show doctor’ was discreetly brought in to fix things. Neil Simon and Michael Bennett were two of the most reliable fixers back in the 1960s and 70s. They even worked on each other’s shows. Simon notably contributed some big laughs – "committing suicide in Buffalo is redundant" – to help warm up A Chorus Line (a hit again in its current Broadway revival). However, you may not know why ‘Doc’ Simon agreed to work for free. Just a few years before, Bennett secretly helped out on Simon’s aptly-named The Good Doctor and was then asked to direct God’s Favorite – Simon’s first flop. When Bennett began work on Chorus Line soon after, Simon owed him a big favor.
This has always been one of our favorite lines, especially having spent more time than anyone should ever spend in the snowy hell-frozen-over central/western New York area.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
The new musical The Flood probably will never be a big-time Broadway musical with razzle-dazzle and big-name stars. That's why it's not to be missed in it's current production by Prospect Theater Company. There are some stellar performances, like Jennifer Blood as a young mentally challenged girl trying to find her footing, and some not-so-great performances as well, but the thing that makes this production soar is it's beautiful score by Peter Mills & Cara Reichel. The songs range from podunk-charming (one is titled, "Hell, We're American") to majestic, and infuse the story with an emotional modesty and truth that makes the audience easily sympathetic to what is basically a small, naiive, red-state town on the brink of disaster, with no one but nature and a short-sighted Mayor to blame.
From the outside, the stories are laughably typical. A high-school couple struggles with decisions about their future together, and whether they should stay in the small town they were raised in, or sow their oats somewhere more glamorous. An farmer proposes to his long-time girlfriend, the local schoolteacher. The mayor is trying to run the family shop, but his son is a rebel with a temper who makes things difficult. These stories are far from new, but the delicacy and specificity with which they are written and performed makes them interesting all over again.
Rather than try and force the audience to find what is old new, the musical celebrates what is traditional, while also questioning traditions that go unchecked. The show opens with a humble yet proud song all about the history of this small town, but once the flood hits and everything is washed away, there is a sense of rebirth amidst the sadness and loss. Also admirable is the utter lack of "poor us, our houses are underwater" self-indulgence that one expects in a showcase production about a national disaster. One of the most moving points is when a character returns to her wrecked house, full of water, and notices how of her many posessions, "it's amazing the things that float."
Moxie hopes someone takes note of The Flood and works to develop it, as there are many aspects worthy of the New York theater world's attention. In the meantime, it's running through November 19th.
-NYTW will present A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant, starting Nov. 29th. So exciting! Moxie missed it the first time around, and can't wait to see it again. Les Freres Corbusier does some amazing stuff (Heddatron knocked our socks off), and just look at that picture. [playbill]
-The London revival of Sunday in the Park With George is hoping to transfer to Broadway in fall of 2007. Producer David Babani said, "Nothing is signed, sealed and delivered yet, but we are very much in advanced discussions to make that happen." Check out the design concept:
The Pulitzer Prize-winning show is based on the pointillist masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by post-impressionist painter Georges Seurat... In the show, the cutting-edge technology brought Seurat’s work to life, allowing the figures in the painting to move around David Farley’s white-walled set. Bird and Farely received the Critics’ Circle’s Best Design Award for their work.
-The Gypsy of the Month Award has been given to Bernard Dotson, long-time ensemble member of Chicago. Moxie has had the pleasure of meeting Dotson several times, and he couldn't be a sweeter, more wonderful fellow. Kudos to him! [broadwayworld]
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
The Times They Are A-Changin' will end it's run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre Nov. 19th, according to playbill.com. Playbill says:
The musical, which began previews Sept. 25 and opened on Oct. 26, will have played 28 performances and 35 previews by its run's end.
Moxie thinks the idea of seeing this musical is getting more appealing! Having thrilled at last year's wondrously, delectably bad In My Life, perhaps this will be the don't-miss flop of the year!
Photo by Folkyboy, courtesy of Flickr
"Reportedly, the name of Casino Royale's Vesper Lynd character [played by Eva Green] has two sources. First, she was named after an exotic cocktail called a "Vesper". The rum punch drink contains ice, rum, fruit and herbs and was served to Fleming and life-long friend Ivar Bryce at a north-eastern Jamaican plantation house. The other source of the name was apparently a spy friend of Ian Fleming called Christine Glanville, aka "Vesperale". She was allegedly a spy who had loved him."
Acchh, Moxie writhes in pain over the incandescent beauty of Eva Green!
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Britney Spears has finally filed for divorce from Kevin Federline. The petition for divorce cited irreconcilable differences, and asks for both legal and physical custody of their kids. This comes on the heels of Federline's near-empty performance at Webster Hall, for which New York Magazine labeled him a "Britney Spears Barnacle." Britney has been doing considerably better that her hubby, appearing recently on Letterman with a new trim physique.
According to TMZ, Spears has hired powerhouse celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, who has repped a number of celebs, including Angelina Jolie, Nick Lachey and Kiefer Sutherland. We're told Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe asked Wasser to rep both of them in their split, but Wasser declined for personal reasons.
Moxie anxiously awaits Britney's next album, full of trailer-door-slamming, "kiss my ass, K-Fed, you'll never take my babies!" anthems.
Friday, November 03, 2006
"1000 special posters were made and were sold for $20 each in support of Saw III and the American Red Cross. Tobin Bell, donated 2 Vials of his own blood to be dumped into the red ink vat. All 1000 posters were then printed with the red ink vat and later sold. However, the first print was put up for auction. It was also signed by the entire cast and crew. All proceeds from both sales, went to the American Red Cross." Ewww!
Moxie recently took in an early preview of The American Pilot at Manhattan Theater Club. The play is terrifying, emotional, and intelligent, though largely humorless. Because writing plot summaries makes Moxie want to pluck out her armpit hairs one by one, here's MTC's summary:
"In a rural village in a war-torn country, an American pilot crash-lands. Should the villagers in the region help him, murder him or use him as a pawn in a dangerous game with the enemy? This powerful, topical and very human new play just earned raves at London's Royal Shakespeare Company. This new production will mark its eagerly anticipated American premiere."
Aaron Stanton plays the injured and captive pilot with gut-wrenching accuracy. The Pilot's lines mostly consist of barking out "My guys are coming for me! Get me a phone! Get me a phone or my government will bomb you!" and occasionally singing along to stale rap songs like "Gin and Juice," but Stanton creates a real picture of a good-natured air force boy from Georgia caught in a terrifying situation.
Anjali Bhimani and Rita Wolf are the strongest actors in the ensemble. Greig injects the minimal amount of warmth required into their characters - welcome in an expanse of melancholy, angry, fearful, and agitated men. Wolf is pragmatic and human as a wife trying to negotiate life in a war-torn country, and Bhimani is spirited and fierce as her headstrong daughter. However, the play never really allows them room to take a breath from the drama/trauma, and so, neither can the audience. As the American Pilot is held captive and tortured, the audience verges on feeling subjected to something, as well. Waleed Zuaiter also shines as the conflicted Captain, but again, is only allowed to show a select few colors in the one-noted script.
Ultimately, it's a really smart play that sheds new light on the multitude of horrors going on abroad right now. With the slew of stale, unkempt, and unfocused political dramas like Eve Ensler's The Treatment around these days, The American Pilot is a breath of fresh air. If only the air were just a bit sweeter at points, if only to make the play's many brilliant points more digestible. However, it is an early preview, so things will certainly change for the better!
Photo courtesy of playbill.com
Thursday, November 02, 2006
"During the filming of the underwater scenes (where the ferry capsizes) Steven Spielberg played a prank on Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning by playing the dramatic music from Jaws (also one of Spielberg's films) through the massive underwater speakers on the sound stage."
Oh Speilberg, what a silly prankster.
"Borat is based on a Russian Doctor Sasha Baron Cohen once met. He said the Doctor was completely hilarious, but it was unintentional."
"This film was originally to be directed by Todd Phillips. But creative differences between Phillips and Sacha Baron Cohen prompted Phillips to drop out of the project."
The National Theatre has announced it's lineup for this season, making it that time again... time to play the "which National show will transfer to Broadway?" game!
In the running:
1) A revival of Happy Daysdirected by Deborah Warner and starring Fiona Shaw. Strong candidate, if predictable.
2) Nicholas Hytner's staging of The Man of Mode, George Etherege’s restoration comedy. Nick Hytner is a genius, but big boring potential.
3) Nicholas Wright’s The Reporter, featuring Ben Chaplin (hottie from The Truth About Cats & Dogs... and The Retreat from Moscow on Broadway, but to me, he'll always be the hottie from the Jeanene Garafalo movie). The play is about the suicide of BBC reporter James Mossman.
4) Revival of Attempts on Her Life, about "late 20th century obsessions [such] as pornography, ethic violence and terrorism. Could be a winner.
5) And rounding it out, we have Sizwe Banzi Is Dead, a play that was one of South Africa's first post-apartheid collaborations between white and black theater companies. John Kani and Winston Ntshona re-create the roles they originated in 1973. Sounds groundbreaking and interesting.
All of them sound pretty incredible, and make Moxie yearn for her days as a drama student in London. However, bets must be placed, and my money's on #3, the Ben Chaplin vehicle. All others, place your bets now!